I’ve been attending my local Quaker meeting off and on for a few years now. Joining in worship, I have had profound experiences, which have both deepened my faith and reawakened my appreciation for paradox.
|Engraving of a Quaker Meeting for Worship
(attributed to J. Walter West)
Nearly everything I know about the Society of Friends, its organization and theology, come from my Quaker Pagan friends. This certainly gives me a perceptual bias, one that is not universally held. My limited experience does not qualify me to even comprehend that debate, but I am mindful that I am a guest in this meeting house.
For my own part, I am very pleased that I decided to join the meeting for worship one summer day. In the silence, I have found that it’s difficult to quiet my own “monkey brain,” as Cat Chapin-Bishop calls the cluttered head, but when I do, I am awestruck.
How weighty Friends do it, I don’t know, but I seek that inner silence with a stern admonition to WAIT. Sometimes it takes several reminders, and there are days when I just need to decompress and have no chance of success. On some occasions, though, the extraneous thoughts about imagined snubs and to-do lists fall away, and I become aware of what Quakers call the Light.
The experience is one of understanding, of communication, and of revelation. Images and insights answer questions that I have lifted in prayer to one or more of my gods, or that I have asked through divination. Snippets of my life get assembled in different ways, such that new patterns and purposes become evident. Sometimes, I feel the presence of a particular god, but that’s not the norm.
The idea of pantheist and nontheist Quakers makes a certain amount of sense to me, if one accepts the premise that Jesus is but one of many possible conduits of the Light. But I’m a polytheist, darn it, and that there Light feels like a different entity to me.
That’s where paradox comes in: just because I see the gods as separate and distinct beings, doesn’t mean that “all gods are one god” is not also true. So perhaps the Light is representative of that paradox. Or it’s a deity unto itself. Or neither, or both.
So I wonder: are there Quakers out there who identify themselves as polytheists?